broody hens.

Broody hens are hens who have entered a part of life when their hormones tell them to raise chicks. They walk around all puffed up, clucking loudly. They eventually settle into a nesting box and fluff out their feathers, often screaming and growling at anyone who comes close. Most broodies come out once a day to eat, drink, and poop, but sometimes a particularly dedicated broody will stay in the box - she needs to be removed daily to eat, or place food and water in front of her and take her out once a day to poop. Keep the nest clean. Some hens go broody multiple times a year, some will never go broody. This is driven by hormones and genetics.

If you have a broody hen, you can put eggs under her and she will hatch and care for the chicks. Occasionally one will not be a great mom, so make sure you have brooder supplies available just in case. Often a broody hen will be willing to adopt day old chicks - make sure the hen has been broody for at least two weeks if possible, and only introduce the chicks in the evening after the sun goes down. She will get familiar with their noises overnight, which will help introductions to go more smoothly in the morning. 
We separate our broodies. In our coops, we have smaller cages where a broody can be shut in. She can see others through the wire, but she has a safe place where no one else will try to lay eggs (and possibly break her eggs). We give our broodies food, grit, and water, so they can reach out and snack if they wish. We also put a nesting liner under them - eggs need good cushioning. Our broodies also get a dusting with DE or mite powder - they do not groom normally while broody, so this keeps parasites away. We take broodies out for 20 minutes a day - long enough to poop and if they wish, long enough to take a dust bath. Some broodies go running right back to the nest after taking care of business, so we just let them right back in. Plenty of people just let hens nest in a nesting box and do not separate. We often have several broodies in a large flock, and we have found that it keeps the chicks safer when they get 1-2 weeks alone with their mom while they bond.
We move broody hens at night into separate broody cages. If a hen does not want to move from a nesting box or has proven to be a bad mother, we "break" her instead. This just involves putting her in a secure wire cage without nest material for 3-7 days until her behavior returns to normal. Our cages have wire bottoms for good air circulation, which cools the hen and helps hormones return to normal. Here are three of our broody breaker cages - all hens are given water, calcium, grit, scratch, and dry food to keep them occupied.

If you decide to let her hatch eggs, leave the hen alone on hatching day. You can stop taking her out of her cage at day 19. Just clean up behind her daily. If you decide to give your broody some new babies, make sure they are under 5 days old or they often will not bond. Make sure your hen has been broody for over a week (I like to wait 2-3 weeks). Add babies at night so they can bond in the dark. Otherwise the hen could attack them.

Hens usually wean babies in between 4-10 weeks. Most of ours wean at 4-5 weeks, but some keep their babies for 2-4 months. Keep in mind - hen raised babies will NOT be as friendly as hand raised babies - but they are a lot less work since mama takes care of them!

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